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News Article
Securing environmental health

Enough is enough. Once again the New Providence landfill is on fire and Bahamians continue to suffer the ill-effects of poor management to safeguard our health. The prevalence of spills, leaks, fires or other incidents across the archipelago warrant immediate attention by government to implement regulations and enforce accountability. And the government especially should seek to live up to the standards set out in law.
Since the Environmental Health Services Act was enacted in 1987 few of the recommended regulations have been properly implemented, much to the detriment of the Bahamian people. Regulations for the collection and disposal of waste only came to fruition in 2004. In fact, the act explicitly recommends measures for the prevention and control of pollution of the air, contaminated land and water. While we can praise such forethought, successive efforts to enact final environmental legislation continue to fail.
The Planning and Subdivision Act 2010 may be considered a small victory for the natural environment with its attempt to promote sustainable development through planning policy. On the positive side, it briefly outlines the requisites for an environmental impact assessment or statement, but it hardly satisfies the need for more stringent controls to prevent and hold accountable the release of harmful substances into the environment. Surprisingly, the Department of Environmental Health Services does support an Environmental Monitoring and Risk Assessment Division; yet its absence from public discourse provides little assurance.
The Bahamian people are justified in their outcry over the lingering dump fires. The government's request for nearby residents to keep doors and windows closed is not a long-term solution. Even more so, the public ought to know the extent of adverse impairment to ambient air quality. We would be naive to assume that all garbage in the New Providence landfill is adequately sorted, eliminating the presence of potentially hazardous substances.
But dangers to human health and the environment also lurk within the land. Contamination of land, particularly below the surface, is difficult to detect and when discovered it is prohibitively expensive to remediate. Earlier this year, an underground gasoline leak was discovered at a Robinson Road gas station. Residents with water wells were right to voice concern over the lack of information provided about the leak. The Ministry of the Environment and Housing engaged a Canadian firm, SENES Consultants Limited, to investigate and submit a report to the government, a report not likely to be disclosed to the public.
Environment Minister Kenred Dorsett, in response to the gas station leak, noted that the government is looking to impose stiffer penalties for environment-based offenses. Such a practice may enhance vigilance and hold accountable private businesses, but what about the potential adverse impacts from government-owned entities such as BEC and the landfills? BEC admits lagging behind on maintenance and using Bunker C, a known dirty fuel. Can the government assure residents that smoke stack emissions meet international air quality standards? What about car and bus emissions, or even cruise ship emissions while they are downtown?
As an active participant in numerous United Nations environmental conventions, The Bahamas cannot feign ignorance over the cumulative hazards to human health and the environment. The expansion of environmental education through community programs by the Bahamas National Trust and Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation is building awareness. Exerting greater control over the accountability for harmful releases into the environment would surely benefit the Bahamian people. International standards from recognized entities such as ASTM International exist to identify recognized environmental conditions and determine steps for containment and removal.
Bahamians should expect more from their government regarding the safeguard of human health and the environment. The government has the blueprint and the knowledge, it simply needs greater pressure from the people to act.

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News Article
Fueling alarm and confusion

The alarm over aragonite is reaching a fever pitch.
A coalition of pastors, union leaders and civil society activists has been making the rounds on talk shows, demanding that the government negotiate higher royalties for aragonite, a unique mineral with a wide range of uses.
At a press conference in Rawson Square last Tuesday, National Congress of Trade Unions of The Bahamas President John Pinder estimated that the government could pocket as much as $300 million per month, or $4.2 billion a year, if it renegotiated the royalties to no less than $350 per metric ton.
The government currently receives $2 per metric ton on aragonite exported from Ocean Cay, just south of Bimini.
The figures quoted by Pinder are significant amounts.
The coalition also says in its fact sheet being circulated that the Bahamian aragonite operation has the potential to be a multi-trillion-dollar industry.
President of Sandy Cay Development Co. Limited Tony Myers, whose company has a 25-year lease from the Bahamas government, said they are selling on average at $12 per metric ton -- far from the $900 figure we keep hearing from the coalition.
At the press conference last week, Pinder was supported by Dwight Smith, chairman of the Police Staff Association; Gregory Archer, president of the Prison Staff Association; members of the Bahamas National Citizens Coalition, and other activists who claim the royalty portion of the agreement between Sandy Cay and the government is up for renewal next month.
We asked Pinder on Friday where the numbers he quoted came from.
While Pinder was the spokesman at the press conference, he told us he did not personally do the research and advised us to speak to Wesley Campbell, who he said is the researcher for the Bahamas National Citizens Coalition.
But a seemingly irritated Campbell refused to speak to National Review yesterday.
He angrily accused us of "deceiving" the coalition's chairman, Rev. Andrew Stewart, by failing to provide him with a copy of the lease between Sandy Cay and the government.
Campbell said the failure of National Review to turn over the lease to the coalition was deceptive because the coalition had previously provided National Review with information as part of its probe into the aragonite issue.
While Campbell refused to speak to us, Stewart did so on Friday night.
We questioned him about the information his group has put into the public domain.
Stewart said the coalition has a research team that has done a lot of work.
We asked him about the coalition's claim in a fact sheet that the lease between Sandy Cay and the government of The Bahamas is "renewable every two years" and was granted by the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) government.
He insisted this was a fact.
When informed by National Review that the lease was signed under the Ingraham administration and does not speak to renewal every two years, Stewart said this statement by the coalition had been based on an "assumption".
We found this admission simply unbelievable.
Asked whether the coalition leaders have read the lease, Stewart admitted that they had not and asked National Review if he could have a copy.
We then committed to asking our source whether this would be possible.
We believe the coalition was confused by a letter written by Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister David Davis on June 3, 2010 to H. Campbell Cleare III, the attorney for Sandy Cay.
In that letter, Davis advised Sandy Cay that it could recommence its aragonite operation while a new lease was negotiated. Sandy Cay bought the old lease in 2009 from AES Corporation, which operated at Ocean Cay and unsuccessfully sought to get approval from the Bahamas government for a liquefied natural gas (LNG) operation.
The government signed a 25-year lease with Sandy Cay on April 20, 2012.
The lease signed with Sandy Cay provides for "a royalty computed as B$2 per ton for demised mineral exported from The Bahamas encompassing the first five years of the lease, after which the royalty shall be computed as 10 percent of the sales price, with a minimum fee of B$2 per ton up to a maximum fee of B$12 per ton for demised mineral exported from The Bahamas".
The lease was backdated to June 3, 2010 when negotiations began.
Admission
After admitting that the coalition is agitating even though it has not read the lease, Stewart said the fact that the lease is not up for renewal adds strength to the coalition's argument.
"It's unthinkable to us that the lease would have been a mere blanket 25-year lease and after over 40 years having been renewed by successive governments periodically, for the government to just give them a 25-year blanket," said Stewart, who also could not prove that the government previously agreed to leases renewable every three years.
The government's former lease for Ocean Cay had no such provision either.
"What our assumption was, not seeing as you have seen the 2012 lease, having only had in our possession the 2010 lease, we assumed that it was renewed somewhere around the anniversary of the 2010 year lease," Stewart explained.
But again, there was no 2010 lease, just a letter written by the government to Sandy Cay allowing the operation to resume while the negotiations for a new lease took place.
Stewart told National Review, "We stand corrected that it is the FNM government and that it is not this government" that negotiated the lease.
He added, "Having discovered that now and having that verified it's a far more horrendous position that the Bahamian people find themselves in than we had ever imagined. Our research department just gave the daily cost on the world market."
Myers, the Sandy Cay president, provided an invoice showing that one of his latest shipments had a cost of $12.50 per metric ton.
Asked whether the coalition has taken into consideration that aragonite has significant add-on value after it is processed by U.S. companies that buy from Ocean Cay, Stewart said, "We recognize that there are layers of costs and pricing, but world market price first cost, our research department has discovered that $900 is a figure."
After further questions from National Review, Stewart also admitted that the coalition never reached out to Sandy Cay to ask questions on what the company is doing or how much it sells aragonite for.
Incredibly, he also admitted that the coalition has not had conversations with the government over a matter it has been making so many demands about.
After it was explained to him that the lease is not up for renewal, Stewart said the government could still act in the interest of the Bahamian people.
"We feel that the government is the influential bargaining agent that can influence or with the stroke of a pen change these arrangements," said Stewart, insisting the coalition has "professional research".
He added, "The Bahamian aragonite is the most sought after aragonite in the world because it is of the highest quality."
Further explaining why the coalition has acted without reading the current lease for aragonite harvesting that exists, Stewart said, "The whole issue with regard to our natural resources has been a private issue in the Office of the Prime Minister.
"Facts are not easy to come by, and for us to have gotten this far, I think we have done a yeoman's job. And in fact, one must remember that we are operating without the Freedom of Information Act.
"Once we have that it wouldn't be like pulling teeth. And so, we have come this far by faith and we trudge on ahead in seeking to inform the Bahamian people."
Irresponsible
We agree with Stewart on the need for the long-discussed Freedom of Information Act.
While we see wisdom in discussing the aragonite issue and whether the Bahamian people are getting what they deserve, we abhor discussions fuelled by misinformation, incomplete information and emotions.
This is counter productive to what those leading the cause might be seeking to achieve, and it may create disharmony.
The so-called facts being put in the public domain are fuelling hysteria and a great deal of confusion.
The coalition should be embarrassed that it is making claims in the absence of all the facts.
It is riling the emotions of the public although it has not read the aragonite lease.
It is speaking -- by the admission of its chairman -- based on an "assumption".
This is highly irresponsible.
It has not spoken to the principal of the company harvesting aragonite.
It has not had discussions with the government on this matter.
Union President John Pinder trusted the "research" of the Bahamas National Citizens Coalition.
Pinder said revenue from increased aragonite royalties could be used to pay every Bahamian at least $50,000 within 18 months of adjusting the terms.
He said this could significantly drive down crime and bring prosperity for all Bahamians.
Pinder aligned his good name with what the coalition presented to him, and did so with the backing of both the police and prison staff associations.
We wonder if the coalition knows how easy it is to access the lease it has not seen.
We respectfully urge our fellow citizens to be careful how they accept information without doing their own research.
We have reported the results of our initial research into this matter.
We do not take the side of Sandy Cay, but it is important to give it a voice in this national debate and that is why we contacted its principal, Tony Myers.
It is why we asked him to allow us to see his company's invoices.
Review
Last week, Minister of Environment Kenred Dorsett said successive governments have "not been aggressive" enough when negotiating royalties for aragonite.
He also said the former administration signed off on an aragonite royalty of $2 per metric ton, even though it initially wanted a figure of between $12 and $15.
The minister also suggested the deal is being reviewed.
"We are looking at those issues to make sure the people get what they are entitled to in terms of their fair share of the revenue associated with extracting those natural resources."
Dorsett advised that a Cabinet sub-committee was formed a few months ago to address this matter.
It is clear that the government should play a stronger role in bringing a more temperate approach to this debate.
We make no statement on whether the government is getting fair royalties.
If in fact there is a review taking place, we hope, and we assume that the government is making use of its scientific and technical experts to drive the process.
Clearly, there is also a need for public education on this matter.
The government should make a full and clear statement, as opposed to ambiguous statements not thoroughly considered.
In driving this discussion, all involved should do so responsibly -- the government, the media and civil society.
This matter has reached a point where the spread of misinformation has had a huge impact on many people now demanding the government renegotiate royalties.
In a democracy, agitation is good.
But in the absence of facts, it could be dangerous.
Its outcome can only be positive if it is done responsibly.

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News Article
Students learning about our living jewels

THE Bahamas National Trust (BNT) is working with the San Salvador Living Jewels Foundation, a local conservation organisation, to expand the national parks system to include five areas in the island: Southern Great Lake, Pigeon Creek and Snow Bay, Grahams Harbour, West Coast Dive Sites and Green's Bay.

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News Article
farmer's market at BNT cancelled in september

DUE to Hurricane Irene, the September farmer's market at the Bahamas National Trust has been cancelled.

The market will reopen October 8, which coincides with International Migratory Bird Day.

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News Article
The changing of the guard

The beauty of democracy is that power rests with the people and the exercise of this power produces stronger and accountable governance. It is encouraging to see the quality of discussions among the electorate leading up to the next general election. The elevation of our debates in this regard is evidence that the Bahamian populace has matured politically and we are very much in tune with the issues that plague our nation. It is fair to state that Bahamians of all social strata and across the political divide are fed up with the status quo of political rhetoric and propaganda. The Bahamian electorate is unified in demanding true accountability and solutions from our political leaders. This paradigm shift and overhaul of politics as we once knew it constitutes a changing of the guard.

The governing party's problems
In the run-up to the general election, each major political party has intensified its campaign with advertisements, posters and billboards. It is disappointing to say the least that some of our political parties are still stuck in the quicksand of old politics as they have shifted from the non-resonating message of proven leadership to the invocation of scandals that have plagued opposition administrations. The paid adverts have sought to paint each other and the relevant leader as corrupt with recurrent references to the "cookie jar".
In the height of this election season, political strategists must be reminded of the legal maxim that states "he who comes to equity must come with clean hands". In essence, he who alleges wrong against a party or another must show that he is doing so in good faith having done no wrong himself. The maxim is quite similar to the words of Jesus Christ that "he who is without sin should cast the first stone". The Free National Movement (FNM) has been studious in its documentation of the scandals of the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) between 2002 and 2007. However, the reality is that the current administration has been plagued with its own share of scandals as well.
In the case of the FNM administration between 2007 and 2012, the allegations against its Cabinet have been numerous throughout its five-year term in office and spans across all ministerial portfolios including local government, education, finance, foreign affairs, national security, immigration, works and transport.
The widely publicized Aga Khan and Bell Island scandal and alleged awarding of contracts to special interests readily comes to mind. It is also difficult to omit the granting of citizenship to immigrants in what was seen as a non-transparent process, as well as the visit of Haitian President Michel Martelly and his controversial remarks to persons of Haitian descent during a meeting also come to mind. The most recent miscue was the prime minister's overt remarks that The Bahamas would not be drilling for oil with full knowledge that exploration licenses had been issued to the British listed public company, Bahamas Petroleum. The remarks caused a one-third decrease in the share value of that company.
The point here is that Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham like many of his predecessors locally and contemporaries internationally has had to deal with his fair share of scandals, some carried out by ministers who have been given the opportunity to run in multiple general elections. It is imperative to state that no political leader is exempt from scandals. Political leaders, however, must display true integrity by exerting honesty and transparency toward those who follow them and have entrusted them with power to administer the proverbial "cookie jar". Any alleged impropriety, corruption or looting of the public treasury should be investigated and not used for political gain or brownie points. Culprits should be prosecuted if there is sufficient evidence to support such allegations.

What we should be discussing
The political parties must return to the issues that are of the utmost importance to the Bahamian electorate. They should be sensitive to, and show some care and concern for, the matters that touch the lives of everyday Bahamians instead of taking us back to the old politics that we no longer welcome. Just to refresh our political leaders' memories, we are concerned about the state of our economy and the multiple downgrades from international rating agencies; the country's borrowing cost increase and level of investor confidence in our Bahamaland. Our economy is in a fragile state; unemployment remains high; illegal immigration is still plaguing our nation; our education system is failing the youth; crime continues to spiral out of control and labor unrest has been the order of the day. Additionally, there has been insignificant and insufficient injection of foreign direct investment to create jobs and opportunities for the Bahamian people to spur economic growth and ultimately increase government revenue.
Each political party must take responsibility for the state of affairs in The Bahamas while they were in office and effectively convince the Bahamian people why they should be given another term in office. Faced with similar socio-economic challenges of the current administration, the Pindling administration did not have the luxury in the 1992 general election of blaming the state of affairs of the country on the worst recession since the great depression which took place in the late 1930s or the ailing world economy. A new generation of Bahamians accepted the FNM's message of change and hence ushered Hubert Ingraham into office in a historical changing of the guard in Bahamian politics since 1967.
The Ingraham-led administration was voted out of office in a landslide PLP victory in 2002; a clear and forceful message by the electorate that it was time to once again change the guard. During the 2007 general election, the FNM campaigned against the PLP on the high crime rate, the country's national debt, scandals and leadership leading yet again to a change of the guard. Five years later, it is ironic that the FNM seems to be faced with a flipped script with a record crime rate, the highest level of national debt in the country's history accompanied with its own share of scandals. Like past governments, the FNM government must face the Bahamian people who have the right, opportunity and privilege to change the guard if they so desire.
This general election will represent the final showdown between two formidable political contemporaries and adversaries. Whatever transpires, we are witnessing the historical end to one of the greatest political eras in the Caribbean region, which would have spanned over 50 years and involved one man and his two prodigies. The 2012 general election will bring about a notable changing of the guard and will usher in a new era in Bahamian politics.

o Arinthia S. Komolafe is an attorney-at-law. Comments can be directed at askomolafe05@yahoo.com.

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News Article
'For the Love of Art' exhibition feels the love on opening night

FREEPORT, Grand Bahama -- With their opening night at the Glory Banks Art Gallery a smash hit, kudos goes to the energetic team that put FOR THE LOVE OF ART Exhibition together, to the artists who had art in their hearts in preparing their artistic works, and to the faithful art patrons who attended opening night to support them.

Thursday, February 7th, gave the opportunity for the Grand Bahama community to mix and mingle with the members of the Grand Bahama Artists Association (GBAA) to experience the rich art culture available on the island and to feel the artistic buzz that is happening on the island.

Local and international artists, many whose names and works are known to the community, along with several newcomers brought their unique perspective to art in eclectic artistry of oil, wood, fiber, watercolours, Indian ink, handmade paper, beads and sequins ... greatly expanding the visual arts on Grand Bahama.

The evening gave art lovers an occasion not only to view the extensive selection of art pieces but also to purchase many of them.  However, if anyone missed opening night, for the month of February, in the garden atmosphere of the Bahamas National Trust in Freeport, the array of artistic renderings of faces, flowers, fanciful  abstractions, landscapes, wood carvings, portraits and seascapes, will continue until February 28th ... all for the love of art.   

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News Article
CIBC FirstCaribbean contributes to preserving the San Salvador iguana

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados - An important step forward has been taken in the protection of the endangered San Salvador iguana. The new San Salvador Iguana Conservation Centre was opened recently at the Gerace Research Centre on San Salvador in the southern Bahamas, with assistance from CIBC FirstCaribbean. The center will breed and raise the local iguanas until they are large enough to be safely released in selected areas around the island. At present, only about 500 of these iguanas cling to a precarious existence on tiny offshore cays and small islets in the inland lake.
The project sponsor was Seacology, which recently entered into a partnership with CIBC FirstCaribbean to conduct three environmental projects, of which this is the first to be launched.
Seacology, a nonprofit organization based in California, decided to become involved in the project as it falls in line with their mission of saving endangered species, habitats and cultures of islands throughout the world. Already their efforts have resulted in more than 1.6 million acres of critical habitat being preserved around the world. This is their first project in The Bahamas, but a second in Abaco is already underway. Executive Director Duane Silverstein, who attended the opening said, "It has been said that the sin for which future generations will least forgive us is extinction of species. Seacology is proud to do its part to keep the San Salvador iguana from vanishing from the face of the earth."

For CIBC FirstCaribbean, support of this project is "further tangible evidence of our commitment to its communities, a promise made back in 2002 when the bank was formed," said Marketing Manager in The Bahamas Andrea Myers Tanguay. The main iguana exhibition and breeding pen is now complete and ready for visitors, along with an information kiosk. Four females and two lucky males are currently residing in the exhibition and breeding pen. Professor of Biology Dr. William Hayes was, "absolutely amazed at how well adjusted the animals are. They nonchalantly explore their new home, watch us humans with curiosity, and eagerly consume the food provided." He explains how those animals were chosen for the project, "We selected animals from a single location on Green Cay so that they would be familiar with each other and adjust well socially. They should thrive in their new home as ambassadors for their kind. The females have ovulated, and if not pregnant already, they soon should become so. The main goal of the program is to raise juvenile iguanas to a size large enough where they can fare well upon release to the wild, thereby supplementing the natural population. We foresee this population increasing substantially in the years to come as the result of this new facility, thereby ensuring their survival for future generations of humans to enjoy."

Of further interest to funders CIBC FirstCaribbean and Seacology was the partnership the project created between science and local conservation. San Salvador Living Jewels is working with the Bahamas National Trust to submit a proposal for a new national park focused on protecting iguana and sea bird nesting habitat as well as an extensive tidal creek area, which acts as a nursery for a number of important species. Lindsey McCoy, Bahamas field representative for Seacology says, "It is the hope of all of us working together on this project that it will lead to the dec- laration of a much needed new national park on and around San Salvador."
The two other projects to be undertaken jointly between Seacology and CIBC First- Caribbean are the protection of the sea turtle nesting site in St. Kitts and preserving the critical mangrove forests of Grenada.The agreement between the two organizations runs for a period of three years.

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News Article
BNT parks awarded certificates of excellence

ELEUTHERA AND GRAND BAHAMA - The Leon Levy Native Plant Preserve, Lucayan National Park and Peterson Cay National Park were all awarded Certificate of Excellence awards from the website www.TripAdvisor.com this month.
These national treasures are part of the 27 national parks and protected areas system managed and cared for by the Bahamas National Trust (BNT).
"The Levy preserve staff are elated to receive TripAdvisor's Certificate of Excellence award for 2014," said Mark Daniels, manager of the Leon Levy Native Plant Preserve. "The preserve is a unique space that allows guests to enjoy the beauty of our native plants in the setting of our diverse Bahamian forest. We are extremely happy with the positive feedback from our guests and will continue to maintain the standard that the preserve represents. I encourage all past guests to plan a return visit to experience our newly-added Freshwater Wetland, Lath House and Edible History Garden."
The preserve recently celebrated its second phase opening, when Shelby White treated Prime Minister Perry Christie and Minister of the Environment and Housing Kenred Dorsett to an exclusive tour. During his address at the opening Christie noted, "I know that with the opening of this second phase, the preserve has become even more of an attraction for locals, tourists and Bahamians throughout the archipelago."
The Lucayan National Park (LNP), which is located east of Freeport, Grand Bahama, is the most visited national park in the BNT park system. LNP encompasses one of the longest underwater cave systems in the world, with over six miles of caverns and tunnels already charted and is a sought out park by experienced divers. LNP also exhibits every vegetative zone found in The Bahamas and has a bridge connecting it to one of Grand Bahama's most beautiful beaches.
Additionally, the BNT manages Peterson Cay National Park, located offshore of Barbary Beach on Grand Bahama's leeward shore. It is the smallest national park in the system. Peterson Cay is an important seabird nesting area, as well as a popular recreation area for beach goers and tour operators.
"Receiving this award is phenomenal," said Lakeshia Anderson, Grand Bahama National Parks manager. "We are indebted to the many visitors from around the world who have shared their travel reviews. This achievement shows the dedication, passion and hard work our staff exemplifies daily to ensure these special places are well kept. This award would not have been possible without the talents of local tour guides and others that provide exceptional services to both Lucayan National Park and Peterson Cay National Park."
BNT staff at all the parks are extremely proud of this accomplishment, and will display their certificates of excellence for all to see. Great reviews of the parks help to raise awareness of the natural beauty of The Bahamas and give an added attraction to these islands. The accolade, which honors hospitality excellence, is given only to establishments that consistently achieve outstanding traveler reviews on TripAdvisor, and is extended to qualifying businesses worldwide. Establishments awarded the Certificate of Excellence are located all over the world and represent the upper echelon of businesses listed on the website.
"I'm really proud of the hardworking staff at the Lucayan National Park, Peterson Cay and the staff of the Levy Preserve," said Eric Carey, BNT's executive director. "Three BNT national parks receiving Certificates of Excellence in one week shows not only how great the natural beauty of The Bahamas is, but also how hard the BNT staff work to keep it that way."

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News Article
Government Ministers Urged To Protect Sharks
Government Ministers Urged To Protect Sharks

GOVERNMENT ministers were encouraged to adopt legislation to outlaw shark fishing at a breakfast briefing on shark conservation hosted by the Bahamas National Trust (BNT) yesterday morning.
Experts from the international non-profit organisation the Pew Environmental Group told Cabinet ministers how such legislation would not only ensure the health of the coral reefs and sustain vital fisheries, it would also continue to support the lucrative shark tourism industry as local populations are unmatched elsewhere in the Caribbean.
Director of global shark conservation for the Pew Environmental Group Matt Rand explained how shark......

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News Article
Securing environmental health

The recent New Providence landfill fire due to poor management of the area harmed the health of nearby residents. The prevalence of spills, leaks, fires or other incidents across the archipelago warrant immediate attention by government to implement regulations and enforce accountability. And the government especially should seek to live up to the standards set out in law.
Since the Environmental Health Services Act was enacted in 1987 few of the recommended regulations have been properly implemented, much to the detriment of the Bahamian people. Regulations for the collection and disposal of waste only came to fruition in 2004. In fact, the act explicitly recommends measures for the prevention and control of pollution of the air, contaminated land and water. While we can praise such forethought, successive efforts to enact final environmental legislation continue to fail.
The Planning and Subdivision Act 2010 may be considered a small victory for the natural environment with its attempt to promote sustainable development through planning policy. On the positive side, it briefly outlines the requisites for an environmental impact assessment or statement, but it hardly satisfies the need for more stringent controls to prevent and hold accountable the release of harmful substances into the environment. Surprisingly, the Department of Environmental Health Services does support an Environmental Monitoring and Risk Assessment Division; yet its absence from public discourse provides little assurance.
The Bahamian people are justified in their outcry over the lingering dump fires. The government's request for nearby residents to keep doors and windows closed is not a long-term solution. Even more so, the public ought to know the extent of adverse impairment to ambient air quality. We would be naive to assume that all garbage in the New Providence landfill is adequately sorted, eliminating the presence of potentially hazardous substances.
But dangers to human health and the environment also lurk within the land. Contamination of land, particularly below the surface, is difficult to detect and when discovered it is prohibitively expensive to remediate. Earlier this year, an underground gasoline leak was discovered at a Robinson Road gas station. Residents with water wells were right to voice concern over the lack of information provided about the leak. The Ministry of the Environment and Housing engaged a Canadian firm, SENES Consultants Limited, to investigate and submit a report to the government, a report not likely to be disclosed to the public.
Environment Minister Kenred Dorsett, in response to the gas station leak, noted that the government is looking to impose stiffer penalties for environment-based offenses. Such a practice may enhance vigilance and hold accountable private businesses, but what about the potential adverse impacts from government-owned entities such as BEC and the landfills? BEC admits lagging behind on maintenance and using Bunker C, a known dirty fuel. Can the government assure residents that smoke stack emissions meet international air quality standards? What about car and bus emissions, or even cruise ship emissions while they are downtown?
As an active participant in numerous United Nations environmental conventions, The Bahamas cannot feign ignorance over the cumulative hazards to human health and the environment. The expansion of environmental education through community programs by the Bahamas National Trust and Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation is building awareness. Exerting greater control over the accountability for harmful releases into the environment would surely benefit the Bahamian people. International standards from recognized entities such as ASTM International exist to identify recognized environmental conditions and determine steps for containment and removal.
Bahamians should expect more from their government regarding the safeguard of human health and the environment. The government has the blueprint and the knowledge, it simply needs greater pressure from the people to act.

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